Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts on Preparing to Move Overseas with a Family (Part 3)

This post is long overdue, but is a continuation of a series I compiled about the process of moving overseas with a family. (Here are the links to  Part 1 on how we came to our decision to move overseas & Part 2 on the steps we took to prepare for our move.) For Part 3, I wanted to share some of the things we found helpful in tackling our international flight with a one year old and a three year old.

Scheduling/Choosing Flights:

 - Choose flights with the majority of flight time during the day. This was one of the best tips I found in my online searching for tips on flying internationally with children! Everyone's children are different, so this may not be the best choice for some families. But, for the most part, it is very difficult to get good rest on an airplane, even for littles! They may doze off here and there, but the lights, sounds, announcements, people all around, excitement of traveling, etc. can be way over-stimulating for many children, making it difficult for them to fall asleep or stay asleep. Because of this, scheduling your flight so that they only miss a naptime or a few hours of nighttime sleep vs. an entire night of sleep can be super helpful! Obviously, with such a long flight, some of it will last into the night, but, if your flight leaves in the morning, this will happen at the end of your flight. And, ending your flight with a fussy little one is always better than beginning with a miserable, overtired little one!
- Pick your seats strategically. Because Matt is 6'9", we chose bulkhead seats because we had to in order for him to have enough leg room. But, even if we hadn't needed to, we still would have chosen this option because the investment is so worth the extra space children!!! With our airline (Azerbaijan Airlines- which we would highly recommend!), we only had to pay $150 total for all four of us to be in the bulkhead comfort plus seats. The seats were arranged in groups of three, so one of us was in the middle row and one of us sat on the aisle seat of the side row, to block the girls into the little space from there to the window. They were able to stand, walk around in circles, switch seats with each other, lie with their feet outstretched, etc., and we didn't have to worry about them kicking the seats in front of us or pulling someone's hair, etc. :)

Packing the Carry-Ons: 

Here is a list of things we packed that were helpful:

- Diapers. (Clara was still in diapers at the time, and we brought diapers for Ann as well in case she fell asleep or we needed to put one on here because we couldn't get her to the bathroom in time such as during our flight change, during airplane turbulence times, when all the airplane bathrooms were in use, etc.) How many diapers should you pack? Well, we were traveling for about 24 hours total and packed almost an entire pack of diapers- about 30. Better to be safe than sorry, right?! We put about 15 each in the two backpacks we used for the girls and had a few in our other two carry-ons as well, so we always had some accessible!
- Baby Wipes. I opened a bulk pack of baby wipes and divided it into four ziplock baggies to scatter throughout all of our carry-ons. These were helpful not only for diaper changes, but for sticky faces, spills, wiping down icky airplane bathroom seats, etc.
- Extra clothes. We had the girls wear their zip-up footy pj's for the flights b/c they were easy, warm, and comfy. But I also brought a change of clothes for them each as well. When Clara had a blow-out diaper in the middle of our 14 hour flight, I was SO glad I did!!
This is how Clara felt about the 14 hour plane ride!
- Snacks. As I mentioned above, we had two backpacks that we used for the girls' carry-ons. Each one had diapers, a pack of wipes, snacks, books, toys, etc. We only kept one at our seats with us and kept the other in the storage area above our seats. By swapping out the backpacks throughout our flight, we still had the necessities (diapers, wipes, etc.), but the toys/snacks/books were different in each one to keep the girls engaged and excited about the "new" assortment to choose from. The approach I took to snacks was finding things that were healthy, not too messy, and not things the girls normally that way they were like special treats. It can be easy for fruity and sugary things (natural sugars, but sugars nonetheless!) to be the majority of snacks that fall into this category, but I attempted to include enough fats and proteins as well to keep their bellies full and to try to avoid the craziness that comes from toddler sugar-rushes! Some snacks we brought were: Beef jerky, nuts, shelled pistachios, coconut flakes, cliff bars/granola bars, granola (make sure it's chunky and not just small pieces of oats or it will be everywhere!), freeze-dried fruit, fruit leather strips, squeeze pouches (I tried to find some with oats/quinoa so they weren't eating too much fruit), natural no-dyes lollipops, rice cakes, etc. We saved the lollipops and fruit leather strips for the really desperate times, so when it was 12 AM, they were both screaming, and we still had a few hours to go, it was nice to be able to pull out a lollipop! They were excited and instantly quiet while sucking on their special treat; we have a rule about "no biting, only licking," so lollipops last a long time for our girls! Some other tips would be to pack a few disposable cups to put snacks in, so you can limit the amount they have (especially helpful for granola, freeze-dried fruit, etc.) We also brought sippy cups for our girls, and the stewardess was so kind to fill those up for us instead of giving the girls cups that would spill. Also, we started them off with just water, but when things got tough at the end, we let them have some juice which made it exciting and special. As a general rule, saving the best/exciting/special things for the end of the flight is very helpful!
- Kindle/Ipad. We also saved these for the end of our flight, which worked like a charm. I had downloaded new apps and a few new Doc McStuffins episodes on each device. Again, newness makes things more exciting for littles! I also downloaded a few new Barney episodes on my computer, which was very helpful when the wifi wasn't working for the Kindle and the iPad.
- Children's Headphones. We love these ones! You can interchange headphones with these, which was very helpful when we needed a special type of two-pronged headphones to watch movies on our Russian flight. We also brought a headphone splitter.
- Ipod. I added some children's music to my old iPod. This was a fun "grown-up" thing Annie loved to use because she was "a big girl now." :)
- Books. Each backpack had a few books. I choose books that were compact but still very stimulating (lift-the-flap books are great!) My girls also love books with songs, which is great b/c these generally take a longer time to read/sing through than other books. Some of our favorites are: a mini version of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"Little People Lift-the-Flap booksthis book of children's songs, Clara's favorite Jesus Loves Me song book, and word books like this one. Word books are great because there are so many things to point to and talk about. We even play games like "I Spy," "Point to all the blue things on this page," or "Can you point to the things that are crunchy/soft/loud/quiet, etc." The more time you can get from one book the better ;)
- Activity Books. My kids absolutely love this one! We got ours used at a Half-Price Bookstore and have used it for several trips already! I pack a dry-erase marker for each girl and use baby wipes to wipe the pages clean. (They almost love this step more than the tracing and writing!)
- Quiet books/bags. My kids play with this little pillow for hours, and it's great for fine motor skills! We also have a quiet book similar to this one that my girls enjoy. Something else that is easy and cheap to make is no-sew felt pizza! I recently made these and my girls love them! They would be great for traveling b/c they are light and easy to pack and can be used to play "restaurant," do activities with symmetrical/asymmetrical pizzas, etc.
- Coloring supplies. We went to the Dollar Store and bought each girl a small notebook to color in. Then I put a few crayons/colored pencils in a ziplock bag- again, one for each girl.
- Stickers. Is there anything better than stickers?! These are always on our list of top traveling supplies with littles! Just like their notebooks for coloring, each girl has a small "sticker notebook" (helps avoid the problem of stickers all over the place!) Before we travelled, went shopping for a variety of cheap stickers (Dollar Store) as well as a few more expensive "very special" stickers (Target). The girls could play with stickers for hours- and it's a bonus that they are light and easy to pack!
- Playdough. I didn't know how I felt about this one at first, but it actually went better than I thought it might! I brought one color for each girl, and we talked about the rules (keep it on the tray, not on the seats, etc.) several times before getting the play dough out. We passed nearly an hour making play dough snakes, cookies, pizzas, etc.
- Lacing Cards. Another great thing to keep little hands busy! We purchased ours at a children's consignment shop.
- "Lovies." Last but definitely not least, we packed our girls' special "lovies"- each of their special blankies. Anything that is comforting or helps them sleep is a must. We didn't let our girls get theirs out until "naptime"(1PM) or "bedtime" (around 8PM- the rest of our flight). This helped keep some vague semblance of a typical routine and helped signal when it was time to rest even amidst the hustle and bustle of an airplane. Bringing a large swaddle blanket can be helpful for little ones who are still nursing or who are helped by darkness when trying to rest. Clara's lovey is a swaddle blanket, so this is what we used. When she was fussy and tired, I used her blanky to cover my arm that was holding her, giving her a little "tent" that was semi-dark and that blocked out all the stimulation in order to help her fall asleep.

Getting Around the Airport:

- Stroller. Our airline made us keep our double stroller with us and check it at the airplane door both times we boarded the plane. We hadn't planned to do this; we had hoped to be able to check it at the start with all the rest of our luggage. But the stroller actually proved very helpful for carrying all of our carry-ons and for Annie to ride in when we changed flights late at night. We had our BOB double stroller, which was a little tricky to get around the tights spots of the airport with, but we made it work :) And we are so thankful we have it here on the bumpy stone roads of Jerusalem!
- Baby carrier for the win! This is my all-time favorite baby item! We have an Ergo Carrier (the original, not the 360 as it wasn't out yet at the time we bought ours) has been used probably every day since Annie was born. I still use it when shopping at the Shuk with Clara! It keeps my babies close, comforts them, and gives me hands that are free to do what I need to do. I HIGHLY recommend getting a high-quality baby carrier, especially for traveling with littles!

Well, that's all I have to share so far, as we've only done an international flight once with our girls (although we've flown a few others times and have had countless long car trips as a family- to which some of the same things would apply :)  I'm sure I'll learn even more things when we travel once again!

If you've done an international flight with children, what are some tips you would share with those seeking advice? 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Time I Yelled, "Jesus Loves Me"

It had been a typical day for us. We had greeted the morning with smiles and tickles and lots of snuggles. I had sipped on my chai tea while reading through the book of Proverbs as the girls ran around in the garden in their teddy bear pj's, enjoying the crisp morning air and searching for giant snails. After a quick breakfast together, we'd packed our shopping bags and left to run a few morning errands. On the bus, when Annie sweetly, out of the blue, commented, "Mommy, you still have a lot of growing to do because you still have a lot of birthdays to celebrate!" she and I discussed birthdays and how adults don't grow each year as children do. At first, she was worried that the fact that I wouldn't grow any more meant that I wouldn't have any more birthdays, but after our little talk, she was happy to know that I still had many more birthdays to go, and she exclaimed, "Good! Because I want to celebrate your birthday with ice cream and a party, Mommy!"

After our morning shopping excursions, we stumbled through the door with our bags of groceries, and the girls sweetly helped me put everything away. (Annie especially likes helping with the pantry items because she gets to stand on the counter and "organize" the shelves.) Once everything was in it's place, we set up a picnic lunch in the garden and enjoyed soup and carrots together. The girls had one more go at the garden- stomping in the mud and proudly bringing me homemade "sushi" (thick, goopy mud loosely wrapped with giant leaves) with a smile and a, "Mommy! Take a bite! Take a bite!"

Then, nap time came around...

Just before nap, Annie had one of the worst potty accidents she's had yet- which resulted in a poopy floor that needed cleaning, underwear that needed to be rinsed well and soaked, and a little bottom and legs in desperate need of a bath. Meanwhile, Clara was becoming increasingly fussy, and I realized it was already past her usual nap time. So, I faced a typical mommy dilemma- which kid do I help first? I decided to put Clara down for her nap so that I'd be able to give Annie my full attention for the clean up. Well, this of course brought a huge meltdown from Annie, who loves to help me sing Clara her songs before nap time. I could hear her yelling from the bathroom, "Mommy! I want to help you sing! I want to help you! Wait for me!!!!!!" But I knew that plan wouldn't work today and that I needed to get Clara to sleep. So I kept singing the naptime songs, all the while hearing Ann's screams becoming more and more intense, yelling for me to stop, until eventually, she was standing half naked in the hallway (so now poop is all over our hallway floor as well), screaming at the top of her lungs for me to stop singing and to wait for her. Clara, our sensitive soul, was now upset by all the screaming and started crying herself. When I finished the usual naptime songs (through Ann's yells and screams), Clara was very worked up and was begging, "Mommy, sing ...." with tears streaming down her face. At this point, I just wanted to be done with the singing and to turn my attention to Ann- to correct her disrespectful yelling and to get everything cleaned up. But Clara kept crying for me to sing this one more song. The problem was, because of her tearful state, try as I might, I could not tell what song she was asking for! My attempts at guessing "He's Go the Whole World In His Hands" and "The B-I-B-L-E" were only met with tears and a vigorous shaking of her head, "No, Mommy! No, Mommy!" All the crying and whining and yelling was becoming overwhelming, and I could feel my own heart rate increasing until I finally burst out in frustration, "I am just going to sing you Jesus Loves Me because I have no idea what you are asking me to sing!" And I proceeded to "sing" Jesus Loves Me at the top of my lungs to my crying two year old ho was clutching her blanky and staring up at me with fear and tears in her eyes. As I closed her bedroom door behind me and faced my red-faced, wailing four year old, my heart sank as I  realized I had just yelled at my precious toddler. Not only had I yelled, but I had, ironically, yelled through the entire song of "Jesus Loves Me."

What a humbling moment that was, as I hugged Annie in the hallway to calm her tantrum, to be confronted once again with the fact that I am weaker than I realized. Anger is not something I thought I struggled with (which actually brought pride at times!). But, this afternoon made me see that my heart is even more sinful than I can see and that I desperately, desperately need Jesus to change me and make me more like Him! I need His patience and love as I care for my girls. The very thing I was going to correct Ann for (yelling disrespectfully to me), I had done myself to an even worse degree!

After Clara woke from her nap, I snuggled with the girls on the couch and admitted that Mommy had sinned with anger and yelling and talked about how  I am a sinner, just like them, and that I need Jesus to forgive my sin and change my heart, just as I'm praying He will do for them. I asked for their forgiveness and was met with Clara's soft blue eyes looking up at me with a dimpled smile as she reached out her arms to hug me and said, "Yes, I will, Mommy!"

This is what being a mom does each and every day for me- It reveals the sinful depths of my heart and causes me to turn again and again to Jesus. It's not an opportunity to wallow in guilt, but an opportunity to look to Jesus and remember that "there is no condemnation" for those who are His children (Romans 8) and to rely on His strength and love to lay down my life in service and self-sacrifice for our girls, as I dwell on how He laid down His life for me. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Moving Overseas with a Preschooler

"Mommy, I wish I had three of these, so that way, if you needed to sell some, I would still have one left. Wouldn't that be a good idea?!"

"Mommy, why is everyone speaking Spanish to me? I don't like when they speak Spanish."

"I used to live in Louisville, then Grandma's house, then Papaw's house, THEN Mimi & Pappy's house, and NOW we live in Israel! Right, Mommy?"

These are just a few glimpses into our three year old's perspective on selling most of our belongings, saying goodbye to family, and transitioning cultures after our overseas move.

Before our move to Israel, I was unsure how moving overseas and living in a different culture with a new language would affect our littles. I brought home piles of library books on expat living, searched the internet for articles and blog posts on moving overseas with a children, and asked loads of questions to missionary moms and their children. Most of the information I found was encouraging, focusing on the fact that younger children should transition much more easily than older children, mostly because they did not have the deep roots of school, close friends, etc. to uproot.

Because of this, although I knew this would be an immense change for them, another part of me almost expected them to be mostly unaffected- I had received so much encouragement that children are resilient and that they would do great with the move. I am thankful for this encouragement! It undeniably held true for our youngest (who was almost two at the time), as she continued to be her snuggly, sweet self, completely unaware that she was surrounded by head wraps, hummus, and Hebrew shouting matches at the Shuk as opposed to the polite, quaint southern atmosphere of Kentucky. Our oldest, however, (who was almost four) went through a bit more of a struggle the first few months (or really, the past year and a half, if I include our moving preparations). It was only once we passed the 6 month mark of living in Israel that she truly seemed to be adjusted to her new life here.

So now, after reflecting on those first couple months after our move,  I wanted to write this to share the hurdles we faced with our daughter and some of the things we found that were helpful in overcoming them together, in hopes that it might help others with preschool children who may also be facing a significant move.

1. Insecurity
We found that our daughter grew increasingly insecure before and after our move. As we were preparing to move, she would often crawl up onto my lap, look up at me with her deep, dark brown eyes and say, "Mommy, please don't sell my blanky. It's really special to me." My heart would ache when I realized how burdened and concerned she was, and I would wrap my arms around her and whisper in her ear that Mommy and Daddy would never ever sell her blanky. I would try to explain to her how we were flying on an airplane over the ocean and how airplanes only have enough room for us to bring a few boxes- so that's why we were selling our furniture and the really big things that we couldn't take with us and why we were also selling things that we didn't really need and only keeping the things that were really special to us. The more we talked about this, the more it seemed to help her process they "why" behind the fact that her toys, bedroom furniture, and most of our belongings kept disappearing over time.

Some things that might help a preschooler with insecurity about an upcoming move would be:
- Talk about it over and over again (and over again some more :) We had a "months of the year" poster that we had on our playroom wall, and, as we prepared for our move, we talked about what would happen during each month. (For example, "In May, we will get a really, really BIG truck and put our 9 boxes in the back of it, and Daddy will drive the truck up to Mimi & Pappy's house while Mommy drives with you and Clara in our car. Then, in June, we will go to Florida and visit Grandma and Poppy and then to Myrtle Beach to visit Papaw. And, in July, we will live with Mimi & Pappy for two whole months before our move. And in August, we will finally fly on an airplane to move to Israel! And, do you know what? We will be flying on the airplane on Daddy's birthday- isn't that silly?!") We tried to make our talks about the move exciting and turn it into a great big special adventure- preschoolers love adventures!
- Learn about moving and about the place you're moving to.  We rented children's library books on moving (she loved the pictures of the big moving trucks!), airplanes, children in different cultures, and life in Israel. Stories and pictures are always helpful to give visuals to what you've been talking about. We even looked up pictures of airplanes online when she asked questions about how airplanes worked. We looked on the map and traced our fingers from Kentucky up to New York and then over the ocean all the way to Israel. My mother-in-law also bought the girls a DVD set of Sesame Street about the holidays of Israel that the girls enjoyed watching. All of these things helped her as she was processing what was going to happen over the next few months.
- Listen to their concerns and answer their questions (over and over again, if needed). I was honestly surprised by some of the questions Annie asked about our move: "Mommy, how will our car get to Israel?" "If we are selling it and don't have a car anymore, how will we get to the airport if we can't drive?" "Who will pick us up after we get to Israel?" "How will our boxes get to our AirB&B?" etc. One of the things we went through over and over again was how our luggage would go on the luggage rack at the airport, the workers would put it on the plane for us, and, even though we couldn't see it, it would be flying on an airplane to Israel too, then when we arrived, we would pick it up again at that airport and take it on a van to the apartment we were renting. As littles are trying to process everything, there will no doubt be lots and lots of questions!
- Remind them of truths from God's Word. As much as you can throughout your conversations about the move, remind them of the truths that 1) Belongings are not eternal- they don't last forever 2) Even though we have things that are really special to us (like her blanky or my box of journals), possessions won't make us happy- only God can make us truly happy, and 3) God is everywhere! 4) When things are scary for us, we can trust God and pray to Him. Honestly, I needed to hear these truths more than she did, and it was helpful to talk about them together throughout our move.

2. Separation Anxiety
After our move, Annie's insecurity transitioned from a concern about belongings to a concern about people. The little girl who used to walk confidently into the church nursery without so much as a wave or a kiss was suddenly clinging to my leg with all her might, begging me not to leave her. At first, we realized the need to help her feel secure amidst her changing world and decided not to push or force her to do something she didn't feel comfortable with. But, after several weeks of struggling with intense separation anxiety, I realized this was something we had to help her work through. What struck me the most was that her insistence on being with us 24/7 did not seem like an excuse to get out of something but was a deep concern that we really might not come back for her.  Although it was heartbreaking to realize she would question this, it made sense considering everything else in her world had changed- where she lived, what language people were speaking around her, what the weather was like, what her room looked like now, how we travelled by walking everywhere rather than driving, etc. I remember one day, praying continually as I went through my day cooking meals and folding laundry, thinking about how I could help her through this worry and anxiety. I even googled "preschoolers, separation anxiety, moving, new culture," etc. but still felt at a loss as to what we should do. Then, I suddenly thought, What do I do when struggling with anxiety? And I realized I needed to point her to God's Word- that's the only thing that calms my heart when I'm struggling! I put this idea together with advice I had read online that children can sometimes be helped by having a physical object to keep with them when struggling with separation anxiety. This is how I came up with the idea of the "Promise Purse." I excitedly ventured out to the Shuk that afternoon, picked out the perfect little purse and walked back home, eager to finish my project and give it to her. The Promise Purse I gave her held two notecards: 1) On the first notecard, I drew the picture of a rainbow and wrote "Mommy's promise to Annie: Mommy ALWAYS comes back." 2) On the second, I drew a picture of a little bird and wrote, "God's promise to us: He sees the birds and watches over them, and He watches over you too." (Matthew 6) I also wrote the verse I remind myself when I'm afraid, "When I am afraid, I will trust in You." (Psalm 56:3) I tucked the notecards in the little purse pocket and wrapped it up to give to her that night. She was so excited! We brought the purse to church and ballet class and, before I dropped her off, we read through the promises together and prayed that God would help her not to be afraid. The separation anxiety was definitely not cured overnight, but having this physical reminder of comforting truths truly seemed to help calm her little heart.

3. Difficulty with the New Language
It was heartbreaking to watch my little social butterfly (who regularly went up to other children at the parks in Louisville with a loud, "Hi!!! I'm Annie! I'm three! What's your name? Can I play with you??") become more and more withdrawn. After multiple attempts to play with other other children at the playground or her ballet class, rather than receiving a "Yes! Let's play together!" and having an excited new playmate, she was repeatedly faced with frowns and crossed arms and even children turning their backs toward her and moving away from where she was to continue their playing somewhere else. What I did not realize before moving to Israel is that, although most adults speak decent English, it is quite rare for children to speak in English to other children. Because of this, Annie began to resent Hebrew, throw tantrums whenever Matt tried to read Hebrew books to her or turn on a Hebrew Barney episode for her, and beg and beg for me not to make her go to her Hebrew ballet class. Our initial approach to helping our children adjust to Israel's culture was to give them as much Hebrew exposure as possible. And, while I think we would have stuck with this instinct had we planned to be in Israel long-term, the fact that we only planned to be here for two years while Matt studied made it harder to stick to this plan when Annie continually struggled with situations in which she was completely surrounded by Hebrew. Because of this, our approach has become much more relaxed as we seek to help her explore and appreciate the fact that the world is full of different languages! We do want her to learn another language eventually throughout her school years and are considering Hebrew as the language we focus on, but we want her to be intrigued and excited about this new language rather than intimidated and resentful of it. After four months of difficulty, we took her out of her Hebrew ballet class and decided to attend a church that has a children's Sunday school that switches between Hebrew and English rather than being strictly in Hebrew.  We also saw the importance of making sure she has close friendships with children who speak English but is also given opportunities to play with children who don't speak English (like at the playground or church or at some other mom's groups we attend). Everyone's approach to this will be different, depending on how long they will be in a certain country, how old their children are, what their children's personalities are, etc. but we have found this slower and more relaxed approach to be better for Annie. She has even become interested in learning Hebrew words again and is intrigued by the fact that people speak different languages. One of my favorite quotes of hers since we moved here has been when she excitedly beamed, "Some daddies speak Hebrew, and some daddies speak English, but MY Daddy speaks Hebrew AND English!"

In conclusion, moving overseas with a preschooler may not be as seamless as moving with a baby or toddler (and probably not as difficult as moving with an older child), but, it is a wonderful opportunity for you and them to grow and learn together! And it is an amazing opportunity for them to realize that the world is much, much bigger than what they can see around them, which I'm thankful our children have been able to experience at such a young age!

If you've gone through a significant move or life change with a preschooler, what are some things you've learned to help them through the transition?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lessons from Succot- "Temporary Shelters"

In Jerusalem, we are currently in the midst of the religious Jewish celebration of Succot, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles. The preparations for this holiday began after Yom Kippur- when home goods stores suddenly lined their front shelves with "sukkah" kits (tents), merchants began selling festive garlands (from glittery tinsel to colorful strands of plastic fruits and vegetables) in booths in the Shuk and along the main streets, and trucks piled high with rolls of thatched roofs drove past us on the streets. In stark contrast to the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, each day leading up to Succot, you could feel the energy of the people and the city building and building.

Before I knew much about Succot, I had already been able to sense that it was a joyous celebration- not only from the colorful decorations for the sukkahs but also from the attitudes of the people passing me on the streets and in the markets. Also, on the eve of Succot, when our family was out for a walk, the normally quiet streets of Share'Hesed (a religious Jewish community) were bustling with families and friends and young adults- all chatting and laughing and enjoying one another. Singing and chanting could be heard from the nearby synagogue, and couples sat beside one another in the park enjoying a glass of wine. There was an aura of gladness about the whole community.

Since then, I have been able to learn more about this holiday, and our pastor actually preached on the significance of Succot this past Sunday. It was almost stunning how perfect the timing of this Jewish festival has coincided with recent events in my life. God has been using these to graciously remind me that this earth is not my home.

Leviticus 23:33-43 is the passage that our pastor preached from this week; it is the place where Moses describes this Festival of Tabernacles to the people of Israel. Some notable things about this holiday are:

- It was to be celebrated after the harvest (vv. 39)
- There were to be two days of Shabbat rest- the first day of the festival and the final day of the festival (vv. 35-36). Coming from America, I can say that I have never experienced a true "rest day" like the Shabbat days here in Jerusalem. To be honest, the way the entire city shuts down has been a source of frustration at times- Nothing is open. I repeat- Nothing. Is. Open. (Okay, so there are technically a few restaurants that are open, but they could be counted on one hand!) This means no grocery shopping or using this weekend day to get a few errands done, no public transportation unless you catch a taxi, no events or museums to visit. The city transforms into a silent "ghost town." I have begun to embrace this day of rest though in the recent weeks. We have begun a family tradition of meeting up with some friends in the afternoon, after church and nap time, to walk to a nearby park where our littles play while we enjoy fellowshipping with each other. There is no stress to "get things done" because everything is closed so you could not get much done anyway! And it is so refreshing to have the busyness and stresses of life lifted for one day each week! Shabbat rest is truly a gracious gift from God who knows our frame and knows we need rest. I thought it was especially interesting how God commanded the people to have two days of rest during this festival- once at the beginning and again at the end. How timely this must have been for them after the work of bringing in the harvest!
- The festival was to be a time of presenting special gifts to the Lord (v. 36) and a time of "celebrating with joy before the LORD for seven days" (v. 40). It was a time of joyous celebration and thanksgiving to God. What a special festival!
- The people were commanded to live in temporary shelters for 7 days to remind them of when they lived in shelters in the wilderness after God delivered them from the land of Egypt (vv. 42-43).

The "temporary shelters" portion of the text is what most caught my attention, namely when our pastor directed our attention to 2 Cor. 5: "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands... For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." On this earth, we are dwelling in "temporary shelters/tents," just like the sukkahs! They are flimsy, fragile, and uncomfortable. And our souls long for eternity- for the home God promises He is preparing for His people.

I desperately needed to be reminded that this life and the burdens and difficulties it brings are because we are living in a temporary world in temporary shelters. I am thankful- so thankful!- to have been rescued from sin and the "kingdom of darkness," just as the Israelites had been rescued from Egypt. But, just as the wilderness was not their permanent home, this earth is not my permanent home either.

As a wife and mother living on this earth, I can be so quick to become burdened and overwhelmed with frenzied attempts to make this temporary shelter strong and comfortable and perfect (striving for a perfect schedule, perfectly nutritious meals, perfectly clean and organized home, the list could go on...) And then life happens and my perfect little world is shattered. This past week, our refrigerator broke (on the eve of Succot, so nothing was open for a day and a half.) We had just stocked our freezer with meat from a farm, which, thankfully, we were able to distribute to our gracious friends to keep in their freezers for a few days. But during the night, before we realized it had broken, we did lose most of the food I had prepared for the holidays and were unable to shop for groceries because the shops were closed. (So thankful for a husband who will eat quinoa for three meals in a row and a meal of avocados, carrots and peanut butter without complaining :) Then, the following day, on the first day of Succot, I cut off the tip of my finger and we spent the morning in the E.R. (Thankfully, it was in the morning and Matt was home and able to take charge and figure out where we needed to go for urgent care. But I will say that walking up the streets of Jerusalem in search of a taxi, crying and holding a bleeding hand above my head, in my pajamas, while surrounded by religious families dressed up for the holidays staring at me, was quite a humbling experience!)

Yes, this Succot, all of my attempts at creating a perfect little environment were shattered, but it has actually been very freeing! I was reminded that I am living in a sukkah- I can decorate it as much as I'd like and I can enjoy the sweet times of fellowship it brings, but I should expect burdens and difficulties because after all, it is just a tent and not a home. I was reminded not to become weighed down with attempting to perfect this little tent but to keep looking to something more- to my eternal home. The sukkah is merely a picture of something more to come- something more amazing than I could ever imagine!

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

Most restaurants set up sukkah's outside their doors
so that their religious customers can eat their meal in the sukkah. 
This street had several sukkah's set up
outside the various restaurants and cafes.

We took this on a family walk one night.
The sukkah was well lit and sounds of happy fellowship and laughter
could be heard throughout the street.
Most families spend time together in the sukkah after their evening meal. 

This was a sukkah constructed
outside a large apartment building without balconies. 
Many sukkahs are built on the balconies.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Navigating the Israeli Shopping Experience

     The Mahane Yehuda Market is my favorite place in Jerusalem. It may seem silly, since we are merely steps away from the majestic Old City walls, the vast labyrinth that is the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, and the serene and enchanting Western Wall (Matt's favorite place), not to mention the countless other noteworthy and beloved attractions of this amazing city. But there is something about this market ("the Shuk") that thrills something inside of me and makes me feel like I belong here in Israel (although I probably couldn't seem any more foreign or look any more like I don't belong to the native Israeli's watching me wander down the Shuk's corridors. :)  All aspects of the Shuk are captivating- from the vibrant colors of the fruits and vegetables stacked high amidst neon signs noting the various prices to the intermingling sounds of Israeli music and loud shouts erupting from the merchants attempting to win customers to their selection of products. Then there is the intense contrast of aromas that surrounds you from the moment you step into the streets of the Shuk - the sweet smells (of perfectly plump dates and melt-in-your mouth Halva), the salty smells (of shiny olives of purple, black, and green & the creamiest Feta I have ever tasted), the fishy smells (of which Annie always declares, "Mommy, something smells VERY bad in here!), and the bitter smells (of rich coffee & bundles of colorful spices). Something feels magical about wondering down the weaving passageways surrounded by it all, and I feel as though this enchantment will always be there- no matter how many times I walk down its streets. There will always be something new to experience, something new to learn...

Here are just a few things I have learned from my trips to the Shuk the last two weeks: 

- Words you need to know: Please (Bavakasha), Thank you (To-dah), Is it possible [to pay with a credit card]? (Efshar?), & Excuse me (Slee-hah). When I come rolling down the Jerusalem hills with our BOB double jogging stroller, I feel like I am saying "Slee-hah" every 10 seconds! It is currently my most-used Hebrew word.

- It is also helpful to know Hebrew numbers as well as the value of Hebrew currency. I first ventured out to the Shuk by myself on just our second day in Jerusalem. After a whirlwind of a trip with one merchant shouting Hebrew numbers to me unsuccessfully, one kind lady reaching into my wallet to grab the correct currency to give to the merchants, and another woman selling vegetables nearly spitting in disgust when I handed her 1/10th of a shekel instead of 10 shekels, I walked through our front door with grocery bags in hand and quickly announced to Matt, "I need to learn Hebrew numbers and what these coins mean!" I now have my currency down and have learned to watch the numbers on the scales at checkout until I have memorized all the Hebrew numbers. And I've also found that if I smile and ask simply "English?" there is usually a kind and helpful person in the crowd who can translate the amount into English for me if I need. But I would love to be able to have a full transaction in Hebrew and fully understand everything being spoken (or shouted) to me :)

A small glimpse of the Friday morning craziness. 
-  There is no such thing as "personal space." Period. This is especially true if you choose to venture to the Shuk on a Friday before Shabbat begins. I had heard that the prices were better at the Shuk on Fridays, so I decided to see if this theory were true, and I set out to the Shuk one afternoon while Matt stayed home with the girls during their nap. Instead of being able to focus on the prices, however, I found myself trying to survive! My feet were being rolled over by shopping carts, sweaty bodies crowded around me trying to push and shove their way through the narrow aisles, and it took almost three times as long to make a purchase as it had on another day I had visited. I learned quickly that, in Israel- especially in the Shuk- there is no such thing as "personal space." This is not always a strange and uncomfortable thing, though; in fact, sometimes it is actually extremely helpful- like the times (yes, it's happened more than once!) that someone has reached into my wallet without invitation to grab the coins I needed to make a purchase. In those moments, when I was feeling so lost, they saw my pitiful American self and saved me so much confusion! "To-dah" a million times over!
Live music lines the
 Mahane Yehuda St. 

- Weekday mornings are the best shopping experiences. The best weekdays to visit the Shuk are Sunday-Wednesday because, in order to avoid the chaos of Fridays, there is an almost-chaotic-but-not-insanely-chaotic Thursday rush that is not so fun to be in as well. But on Sunday-Wednesday, there are only a handful of other shoppers in the streets, the merchants are more willing to barter, and I can actually trek through the market with our mammoth double stroller! (which doubles as my shopping cart :) Also, I specifically noted the mornings as the best time because, not only is it less busy, but it is also relatively cool in comparison to the intense midday heat of these summer months. (So maybe during the winter I'll be wanting to go in the afternoon when it's warmer, we shall have to see!) One thing to note about the mornings, though, is not to arrive too early. I had read that the Shuk opened at 8, but when I went at 9 one morning, none of the meat or fish shops had opened yet. So I have found around 10 AM to be the perfect time.

- A line.... What is that? There is no concept of a line here. I was standing in line (or so I thought) to buy Falafel (on a Friday- not a good idea!) because our stovetop had stopped working and we had no other way to cook dinner that night. The lady in front of me seemed to be ordering 10 or more falafel pitas, so I waited patiently behind her, counting out the correct number of shekels and waiting for my turn to order. Then, I began to notice people coming up on the other side of the counter- shoving coins and bills at the counter, shouting in Hebrew, and suddenly, they were being given food too! Was I on the wrong side of the counter- was the line on the other side? So I began to shift to the other end of the counter when I noticed another couple pushing their way up behind me and reaching directly in the middle of the counter, above the head of the lady still ordering, and, once again, they were being given food as well! And that was my first experience of the Israeli ordering system which basically seems to be: You've got to push and shove, people, because that's the only way you are going to get anything ever. After a lifetime of trying to avoid conflict or tension as much as possible and of being taught to always be polite, this goes against every fiber of my being! But I've quickly learned that sometimes, you've got to do what you've got to do. So, I'll settle for pushing my way through with lots of "Slee-hah's" and "To-dah's" thrown in there for good measure :)

- Children are celebrated and loved in Israel. Anywhere we go with our girls, they are greeted with smiles and affection. And, at the market is no exception- rough burly merchants bend down with silly faces and smiles to give them each a handful of grapes or a special piece of candy. The Halva vendors always offer them special treats to taste. And the elderly Jewish women pinch their cheeks and elbow their friends to look and wave as well. Children are viewed as a blessing and are celebrated here in Israel, and it has been so neat to experience this! (And Annie and Clara don't mind the free treats either ;)

Fresh squeezed juice.... pure deliciousness! 
- Tips for shopping in the Shuk with children are... 1) A stroller is a must, unless you want to feel like you are chasing around little monkeys who's only desires are to escape from you and run to all the colorful fruits surrounding them. 2) Bribery is necessary most times as well. "Please sit in the stroller happily and I will reward you with a cup of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice." Works like a charm every time :) 3) Mornings. Because everyone is fussy in the afternoon, and mornings tend to be more of a happy time. 4) Pack snacks. I always pack a few little snacks (after all, with the time spent shopping as well as walking to and from the Shuk, that is a very long time for littles to be strapped into one place the whole time!). Snacks usually seem to help the time pass more quickly for them, so we make shopping days on-the-go-snacky-kind-of-lunch days. Some of their favorites are nuts, dried fruit, carrot sticks and cucumber coins, olives, spelt bread from the Natural Bakery, & lollipops (We love the Vitamin C lollies from our new favorite health food store "Anise!")

The booth where I buy my olives... see the pits on the ground? :) 
- Taste-testing is part of the experience.
Especially at the olive counter for some reason. Every time I buy olives, I am enthralled by all the people around me reaching for olives, shoving them in their mouths, spitting the pits onto the ground around me, & arguing with each other about which kind to buy. I felt like a true Israeli on my last visit to the Shuk when I tasted both the purple and the green olives first before deciding which ones to purchase (although I will admit that I couldn't bring myself to spit the pits onto the ground but instead just set them gently near the trash pile- maybe someday though :) But the olive counter isn't the only place for taste-testing! As you walk down the alleys of the Shuk, there are opportunities to taste everything from exotic fruits to Israeli Halva. And every time I have purchased spices, I always find the spice container being shoved in my face as I am told to "Ahhh... Smell!" And I can't help but smile.

- Barter if you wish. Some vendors are more open to bartering, others not so much. My first trip, I was very proud of myself when I bartered for a shopping cart and what was once "120 shekels" I ended up buying for 75 shekels! The transaction went something like this... "Shlee-hah... how much for this cart?" "120 shekels." "Hm... no. 80?" And at that, he vigorously shook his head, "No!!! 75." I had to keep myself from smiling- he must not have been very sharp with his English numbers (but who was I to talk- the one who didn't even know how to count to five in Hebrew!) "Ok. 75 then." And that was my first barter.

- You will need to shop multiple times per week. In America, I had a routine (shocker, right?): I meal planned once a week and shopped once a week- First at Trader Joe's for produce, then at Whole Foods for some meats and dairy, then at Kroger for the rest of the things on my shopping list. But, here is Israel, my once-a-week routine is impossible to carry-out...simply because we do not have a car, so we have to walk everywhere, and my stroller does not hold as much as the trunk of my car used to (even with several bags tied to the handle bar- trust me I've tried!) This was somewhat irritating at first because, although I love the Shuk, a 3 hour round trip with two littles who don't appreciate the experience as much as I do, made the trips not so much fun. But, we have finally settled into our own little routine, found a trip to the market that doesn't include steps (which had been really difficult with a grocery laden double stroller by myself!), and have been enjoying our super-fresh produce that we purchase every few days.

- Become a regular. I have found my favorite places to buy meats, eggs, olives, hummus, nuts/dried fruits, spices, and fruits/vegetables (although for vegetables I rotate between 3 stands beside one another to find everything I need). But, recently, I have felt like the merchants are beginning to recognize me and treat me friendlier- especially if I am buying a bunch of items. And I like to think that I may get better prices this way too! Only time will tell, but either way, I like the familiar faces. And it's fun to become a "regular" at their stands. I am not just an American tourist; I am here to live in your beautiful country (at least for the next two years, that is :)

This is one of the vegetable booths I like to buy from.

Some of the merchants arguing over prices with customers. 

This man's booth was in one of the back alleys ;
he was sharpening knives that people brought to him. 
One of the bars scattered throughout the market. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Thoughts on Preparing to Move Overseas with a Family (Part 2)

(Here is the link to Part 1)

Thankfully, our preparations to move overseas happened gradually as well- over a period of almost a year. I remember that first month after we had made our decision- checking out a dozen books from the library on expats and moving overseas and life in Israel. I googled everything from "what to wear in Israel" to "apartments in Israel" to "what to use as luggage for an overseas move" to "tips for an international flight with toddlers." I found some helpful information, but I still felt like there was so much lacking in the books and blogposts I was able to find. Most of the information was written for expats using shipping companies to move their belongings, or for single expats only bringing 1-2 suitcases and studying abroad or exploring a new country for a year. I felt like a lot of the questions I had about how to move overseas with a family without using shipping company were still unanswered. One of the most helpful things I did was personally email/FB message a few missionaries from our church and talk a few friends, all of whom had either recently moved overseas or returned to the States after having lived overseas. Because they were so helpful for me, I wanted to create a written compilation of all the things they had shared in addition to some things I learned by myself along the way, in hopes of helping others who may be going through a similar process.


Because our plan was to move to Israel for 2-3 years for Matt's studies and then move somewhere else internationally after that- either for him to finish his studies or to begin teaching, we made the decision to sell nearly everything we owned. We did not want to pay for storage in the States if we did not plan to return to the States in the near future. 

We first looked into shipping companies and, after many emails and phone calls, soon realized that planning to ship furniture and other boxes, even for a small shipment, would cost thousands of dollars. One particular company, which mostly services Jews making Aliyah, was so kind to give me overall estimates of various shipping options but then to strongly encourage us to consider bringing only the belongings we could fit as luggage on our flight, as that would be the cheapest way. And that is what we decided to do. 

So, here are some tips on selling: 

- Sell in stages. Thinking of selling everything you own can be extremely overwhelming! And we had only accumulated 5 years of marriage worth of belongings, so I can only imagine what we might have had to sort through if it had been longer! We took from January-May to sell everything, and we did it very gradually. Some examples what this would look like are: 1) Selling things you don't need first (holiday decorations, baby items your children have outgrown, clothes you don't use, things in storage, etc.) After Christmas, I sold all of our Christmas decorations except a few special ornaments I wanted to save. Some holidays items I sold right before the holiday took place because people were more likely to buy them at that time, and we just celebrated the holiday without them (more on this later). I got rid of all the baby clothes our girls had outgrown, as well as the baby bassinet, etc. Anything we didn't need anymore or weren't using we got rid of. 2) Selling decorative/unnecessary things before necessities. At the beginning of the selling process, I went through our home and collected all of the decorations (picture frames, wall hangings, plants, etc.) and sold those first. Then, I began to sell larger furniture pieces that weren't necessities and then gradually sold more and more pieces as our moving date neared. At the end, we only had a couch and dining room table for furniture. Then the last week, we had no furniture at all- and we were still able to have families over for dinner that week- picnic style :) 3) Selling toys. I think that selling toys in stages was one of the most helpful things for our girls. At the end of the process, Annie was very insecure, and would break down sometimes, begging me not to sell her special lovey blankie and binky; she wasn't sure why all of our things were gone or where everything was going. But this was only scary for her during the last few weeks, and I think it is because we sold her toys extremely gradually so she didn't notice the selling process as much until the end. Sometimes we only sold 1 toy a week so she wouldn't notice; sometimes we would give toys to a friend of hers so she knew where they were going and she always loved that! We did the same thing with her bedroom: decorations first, then her bed and dresser at the end. We also tried to make the process fun- one day a few weeks before we left Louisville, she took a friend of hers by the hand into her bedroom, exclaiming, "Come look at my special room!" as she showed her the tiny crib mattress on the floor with one blanket and a window covered with a plastic black tablecloth as a curtain. We told her it was a special-adventure-room and part of preparing to move to Israel, and she loved to tell everyone about how she slept in such a special room :)
- Sell through various avenues. We sold most things through two FB mama swap groups, having people come to our front door to pick up items and leave money under our mat, which sounds sketchy, but worked very well actually! We also hosted one yard sale, which was fairly successful (I would suggest having the yard sale at the end of the selling process and teaming up with one or more families so you have more publicity and more people coming to buy things hopefully.) I found Half-Price Books to be the best spot to get rid of books (no one wanted to buy them online); Matt also sold quite a few theological books and Christian literature books to a privately owned bookstore that he loved in Louisville. And I found that the best way to sell clothing was either in bundles on the FB group or to consignment stores or Once Upon a Child if you need to sell children's clothing.
- Have a designated area to put items you need to sell. I used the storage area in our basement. This was helpful because things were "out of sight, out of mind," especially for Annie's toys. If I had to take things directly from her room or playroom when someone came to pick up the item, I think that would have been much harder for her. With this separate area, most of the things we sold had already been down there at least a week before I was able to sell them, so she had most likely forgotten about them already.
- Time your sales with seasons and holidays. The best time for selling toys was the month leading up to Christmas. The best time to sell clothes was right before a new season began. Moms on the FB groups started looking for fluffy dresses and Easter baskets a few weeks before Easter. The list could go on, but you get the idea.
- Sell things in bundles. I found the best way to sell clothes was in FB groups in bundles. I would take a picture of each piece of clothing and then post all the pictures in one post on the FB group. Some ideas were "Women's Small Casual Clothing," "Girls' 2T Summer Clothing," etc. This was also a great way to sell holiday items- "Christmas decorations- all for $10," etc. Occasionally, I would offer to sell items separately but give a significant discount and a preference to anyone who wanted to buy the bundle of items at once.
- And lastly, remember that Selling isn't the only option. There were several items that we gave away  because they were not worth selling. Goodwill was where we donated our items because it was very close to our house, but there are so many options of where to donate things! There were also a few sentimental items that I could not bring myself to sell, but that we weren't able to store. I wanted to give these to people who I thought would appreciate them. Some examples were the glider that I rocked both our girls in (which I donated to our church nursery), Annie's first dollhouse (which we gave to one of her friends), and a lamp my dad had made for Annie's nursery (which we gave to some of our friends who have little girls as well.)

There were times I thought I was going to go crazy if I had to take a picture of one more item to post online. And there were moments of sentimental tears over having to sell "the curtains we have had since our first apartment together" or a favorite baby outfit or a couch filled with so many memories of special times with family and friends. But, God was gracious, and He continually reminded me of eternity throughout this whole process. All these things will pass away. But He will remain- unchanging and faithful through all of life's changes.


We did not want to pay for a self-storage unit if we were not planning to come back to the States soon. But we did have a few things we are thankful our families allowed us to store with them. Here is an idea of what we saved: 

- Formal clothing (Nice dresses, suits, sportcoats, heels, dress shoes, etc. that we would not be using in Israel.)
- "Special Boxes" (Matt teases me because I call them this, but I don't know what else to call them, so "Special Box" it is! I have a box for each of us that contains things that are special that I wanted to save: Sports memorabilia and pictures and medals and diplomas in Matt's, journals and letters and pictures in mine, and photo books and coming home outfits, etc. in the girls'.) 
- Family memorabilia (I saved the china my mom gave me and my wedding dress.)
- Books (Matt saved about 5-6 boxes of books to use if he teaches in the future.)
- Misc. (I saved a Moby Wrap, a small container of DVD's, and a case of our CD's.)


- Research the area you are moving to. I read quite a few sources that mentioned Israel's libraries being very limited in children's literature in English. Because of this, we decided to bring more children's books than we otherwise might have. We also purchased a Kindle for our girls (which was very helpful for the plane ride as well!). I also Googled things that were either hard to find or were very expensive to buy in Israel to get an idea of some other things that might be wise to bring with us.  We take quite a few supplements and eat some health foods that I knew might be hard to find in Israel, so I looked into online ordering from various sites to get an idea of what I might be able to order when we arrived in Israel. I was glad I did that, because I found that, although AmazonGlobal does ship to Israel, shipping costs would be anywhere from $12-20 or more per item! Because of this, I ordered several extra supplements and packed one half of one of our totes with supplements and other herbs and health items. I wouldn't have known these things if I hadn't looked into them before packing.
- Talk to other expats and locals. I am so thankful to have had some friends connect me with a few ladies and families who had lived in Israel. They were very helpful in suggesting things I might want to pack as well.
- Visit before you move if you can! Matt and I were able to visit in February, several months before our move. We rented an AirBnB studio apartment and "lived like locals," shopping at the Shuk and going into various kitchen and home supply stores to get an idea of prices. This helped me see what groceries are abundant in Israel (tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant, for example!), and I started incorporating more of these into our meals in the States before our move. I also realized meat is extremely expensive here, so I became more conscious to find meatless meals our family enjoyed and to use meat as an addition to meals rather than building our meals around meat. This was helpful as well! I also found a few health food stores in Jerusalem but realized coconut oil was much more expensive here than in the States, so I decided to pack some of that as well because we use it for everything from frying potatoes to making our homemade lotion.

- What we packed: 1) Clothes & Shoes. We brought summer and winter items for each of us since Israel is hot in the summer but has a winter season as well. Since the area we are living in is a largely religious area, we brought a lot of dresses and skirts for the girls and I; we also brought simple clothing in neutral colors and did not bring many things that were too formal or things we would not want to get ruined (since we don't have a car and will be walking everywhere). Because we knew we would be walking everywhere, we also invested in good walking shoes (Chacos & Birkenstocks) and we have no regrets so far! Walking for hours everyday makes our feet super thankful for our comfy shoes :) 2) Homeschooling Supplies & Children's Books. Since I am planning to homeschool Annie for this year of Pre-K, I brought some basic homeschooling supplies and manipulatives. I also brought the curriculum I created and my teacher planner. We brought quite a few children's books, since (as I mentioned above), I had read that it can be difficult to find English children's books in the libraries here. 3) Toiletries/Supplements. I packed extra toothpaste and organic shampoos that we use because I did not know if we would be able to find these over here. I also purchased a year's supply of our supplements and brought those as well. 4) Health items. I packed my essential oils and brought extra containers for mixtures I create. I also brought things like Shea butter, Coconut oil, Beeswax, etc. which I use for making lotions and sunscreens. I usually order these things from Amazon, but since I wouldn't be able to do that, I wanted to be sure to bring enough to get us through 6 months. (I have a suitcase packed of things for my parents to come when they visit in 6 months- which I will share more about later.) 5) Health Food. I brought a bag of chia seeds, almond meal, coconut flour (for baking birthday cakes and other special occasion desserts), and coconut oil. These are things I thought it might be difficult to find in Israel. In addition, I made a bulk order of herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs (which I love!) and brought some of my favorite herbs that I use for teas. Spices are abundant in Israel, but I haven't found a good source of herbs yet, so I am glad I packed these, especially because they were very lightweight and did not cause any problems. 6) Matt's books. Matt packed about 10-12 books and his reading book stand as well as some files of school papers and work papers. 7) Kitchen items. I brought my food processor, immersion blender, coffee/spice grinder, and basic kitchen utensils. I also brought 4 mason jars (I didn't know if I would be able to find these here, and, although I have, they are very expensive! So I am glad I at least have a few), fermenting lids, and basic kitchen supplies (vegetable peeler, grater, kitchen spatulas and spoons, cutting board, strainers, etc.). 8) Household items. I brought our 3 small Shutterfly family photo albums, a few special pictures in their frames (which I wrapped in dish towels), a bag of home necessities (screw driver, hammer, tape, batteries, nails, sticky-tac, hot glue gun w/ extra sticks, etc.). A few other special home items I brought were: the girls' birthday headband (which they wear each birthday when we sing to them), two very small wooden signs my mom gave me for our room and the girls' room, a few decorative doilies we have had in each of our apartments since we've been married, and a file of our tax returns from the last 5 years. I also brought my Bible, journal, a journal I write in for each of our girls, & our family prayer book.  9) Toys, Blankies, & Diapers/Wipes for the girls. We brought the girls a tea set with some play food, 2 dress up princess dressed, 2 pretend purses, baby dolls, baby doll stroller and bag of doll accessories. We also brought puzzles, play dough, etc. in their carry-ons (See below for more info. about our carry-ons.)
- What I'm thankful we did: *No sheets/comforters. One of the missionaries I asked about what to pack shared with me not to worry about packing sheets/comforters since lots of countries have different measurements for their mattresses than the US. Israel's mattresses ended up being a different size, so I'm glad I listened to this advice! *Special items. Every one I talked to told me to pack things that are special to our family that would make our new home feel like home and would be familiar and comforting in the midst of all the changes. I'm so thankful I packed our family phonebooks and a few pictures. I'm also glad we brought the girls' special birthday headband. *Diapers/Wipes & extra snacks. These were SO helpful the first few days when we arrived and everything was crazy, until we had time to go to the SuperPharm for diapers and to the Shuk to get some groceries.
- What I would have done differently: *No Appliances! I would never bring appliances again overseas. I had a very nice food processor (which is why I brought it instead of selling it), but when we tried to use it here with the plug adapters, the voltage change kept making it start/stop continually. I also had my immersion blender (my favorite appliance in the whole wide world!), but when I tried to use this, it sparked and broke. (I may or may not have cried.) So, the advice I would give someone moving overseas is to not waste any space on appliances! Thankfully, we found an all-in-one food processor and immersion blender in the supermarket by Matt's school for very inexpensive, and I love it! *Bring necessities. I didn't bring dishes or silverware to save space (for my appliances, sadly), but since you need these things for a home, I would prioritize bringing them. I would also try to squeeze in a few towels, by wrapping things in them, since you need these as well. *Bring lots of cash. Setting up our bank account took quite a while to set up because we had to wait for Matt's student ID after he registered for the semester. We brought $2000, but it would have been helpful if we had brought a little more than this since we have had to use shekels for most purchases (transportation, food, household items, down payment for apartment, etc.).

This was the part of the move I had SO many questions about! And, unfortunately, it was the most difficult to find information about! (I think it was because so many families who decide to move overseas choose to use shipping companies.)
- Choose your luggage. There were various suggestions I found online and heard from friends about what to use as luggage. One that was most often brought up was duffle bags (specifically L.L. Bean's) as a great mode of luggage for clothes because you could fit so much within the weight limit. We thought about purchasing luggage, but then considered how expensive it would be and also the fact that we probably would not have a place to store multiple pieces of luggage in a tiny Israeli apartment. So, we decided to use totes as our luggage. These were not only cheap ($8 each), they were practical as well because they stacked so neatly inside one another, and we knew we could easily cover with with something and use them as end tables or extra storage in a small apartment. We checked with our airline's baggage guidelines to make sure we purchased the correct size because they come in multiple sizes. We also chose this type of tote because it seemed to be the most lightweight of all the options we tested out at Home Depot (as our girls ran around us and climbed in and out of them, which was quite the adventure!) The only problem we faced with these totes was during the last few weeks before our move when we wondered how we would secure the lids (which do snap quite tightly, we just wanted to ensure they didn't come unsnapped with all the tossing around through baggage checks and then under the plane during the flight.) We tried various sizes of careeners, which did not work. We considered ratchet straps but those were quite expensive, and we were not sure if TSA would re-strap them if they needed to search any of our baggage for any reason. Finally, my dad came up with the solution to use heavy-duty velcro straps that were designed for large electrical cords. We wrapped one strap through each box's corners, and these worked like a charm! If you choose to use this type of tote, I highly recommend this system!
- Spread out the heavy items through all of your luggage, and fill in the rest of the space with lighter items. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but this was one of the hardest things for my extremely organizational, control-freak mind! I originally wanted certain bins for specific items: Matt's clothes bin, Kali's clothes bin, Girls' Clothes bin, Kitchen supplies, Supplements/Herbs/Medicines, Toys/Books, Homeschooling Supplies, etc. However, as you can probably imagine, the Kitchen Supplies and Homeschooling Supplies bins were nearly double the weight of the clothing bins! This meant that I needed to change my method of packing. I emptied all the bins, spread out the heavier items, and then packed the clothes and other light items on the top of each bin. We wouldn't have been able to bring as much as we did if we hadn't packed this way. This really drove me crazy at first, because everything seemed so unorganized! So, to ease my mind, this is what I did...
- Number each bin & have a list of what is included in that bin. Normal, non-control freak people could probably skip this step, but I will say that it was extremely helpful when we arrived in Israel and were looking for specific items like clean underwear, the girls' blankets, soap, etc. We didn't have to go searching through 9 bins; I just looked at my handy-dandy lists and we knew exactly where to look :)
- Carry-ons. We were allowed 4 carry-ons, so we had 3 backpacks and 1 roller. The roller was filled with all of our electronics & plug adapters for Israel (which made going through security much easier because we had them all in one place and weren't searching through all the bags.) One of the backpacks was filled with Matt's work items and books for school. The other two were kids' items- each one had diapers, wipes, toys, snacks, their lovey blanks, etc. (more details on flying internationally with littles in another post :) I would not recommend bringing so many backpacks- 2 backpacks and 2 rollers would have been much better. We already had the backpacks, so we just used what we had, but if I was giving advice to someone about to fly with kids, I would encourage you not to have more backpacks than you have adult backs to carry them :)
- The Folder that "HELD OUR LIFE"- I had an expandable file folder that held everything from Social Security numbers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, extra copies of Matt's Hebrew University acceptance letter, etc. We joked that this folder was "our life" and guarded it like so. It was always with us in our carry-ons at.all.times!
- Extras: In addition to all of our luggage, we also brought our double jogging stroller (Hooray for Azerbaijan Airlines for letting us bring such a big stroller!), Clara's pack'n'play, and both of the girls' carseats (which were required for the private van company that drove us from the Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem; we also thought it would be wise to have them in case we would rent a car one weekend to explore Israel.)

Look for Part 3 with tips on flying internationally with littles :)